By Ross Domoney, The Real News Network
In England on May Day tens of thousands of nurses went on strike and walked out from their work at the NHS. In London alone there were over a dozen picket lines as anger, despair and the struggle for a better wage were shouted out on the streets. The government offered the nurses a 5% pay increase which some union members accepted. However, with the inflation continuing to rise in the UK this offer was turned down by many union members too.
Nurses, who are highly skilled workers are burnt out and some are leaving the job for better wages. The striking nurses say the situation has gotten so bad within the NHS, that they are not only striking for better pay but for the safety of their patients. Overcrowded hospitals, long waiting times and a social welfare state that has been continuously picked apart by cuts from the governing right wing Conservatives for the last 13 years. The Real News Network was on the ground speaking to the striking workers at picket lines across London.
This video is part of a special Workers of the World series on the cost of living crisis in Europe.
Producer, videographer, and video editor: Ross Domoney
This story, with the support of the Bertha Foundation, is part of The Real News Network’s Workers of the World series, telling the stories of workers around the globe building collective power and redefining the future of work on their own terms.
Narrator (Ross Domoney): The UK is in the midst of a social and economic crisis and this time the NHS nurses are on strike.
Protester: We see nurses who have children mainly going to food banks.
Protester: We see so many children in poverty every day in A&E.
Protester: We’re watching the disintegration of our public sector.
Protester: It’s like a war like situation where you constantly put mental stress on yourself for 12 hours in a row and I couldn’t do it anymore.
Narrator (Ross Domoney): Amongst the discontent of a country whose inflation keeps on growing, even emergency departments, including intensive and cancer care, have joined in on this strike.
Protester: “We are the NHS!”
Narrator (Ross Domoney): In London alone there are over 12 picket lines at various hospitals.
Protester: “6, 7, 8, 9, 10, if you don’t we will strike again!”
Narrator (Ross Domoney): The Real News Network was on the streets to speak to workers at picket lines across the capital.
University College Hospital – Picket Line
Preya Assi (Cancer Nurse At UCLH): Really what you’re seeing now is an outpouring of disdain and distrust for the government. They’ve made cuts to our bursaries, cuts to our services, cuts to our pay. 20% lost in real terms over the last ten years under this Tory government.
Bert Roman (Cancer Nurse): So 75% of my shifts are understaffed. I often get asked to do double jobs running a shift and taking care of patients. I’m not enabled by this system anymore by the NHS to take proper care of my patients.
Preya Assi (Cancer Nurse At UCLH): A very clear demonstration of the way that we aren’t able to give safe care, is the number of nurses that we are currently under-recruited by 47,000 at the last count. 47,000 nurses that are nowhere, because people have left after the pandemic because young people are not able to get bursaries or funding to study nursing and people don’t want to come into nursing because actually it’s a very difficult profession to be in. It’s under-recognised. It’s underpaid.
Sarah Hewson-Parkinson (Intensive Care Nurse): People are leaving to go and work somewhere else where they’re going to get more money. Which is a massive loss and a lot of those nurses are very skilled, nurses who, you know, we need to support the junior nurses.
Protester: “How do we get it?” “Strike!”
Fiona Boxford (Health Care Assistant): It’s sad. It’s sad when I kind of tell my colleagues, Oh, I’m starting my course to train to be a nurse in September, and they’re saying: ‘I can’t see myself doing this for more than five years.’ ‘Good luck to you.’ It is sad knowing that people who used to love this aren’t doing it anymore and they’re going to leave.
Narrator (Ross Domoney): The government have offered the nurses a 5% pay rise. Whereas some unions have accepted this offer others reject it and vow to continue industrial action.
Fiona Boxford (Health Care Assistant): I would love for this to end. I can’t believe I’m here back on the picket line today after the talks and the offer. It’s so tragic that we’re actually outside here today. I don’t want to be out here. I want to be in there looking after the patients.
St Thomas’ Hospital – Picket Line.
David Carr (Critical Care Nurse): I’m a critical care nurse, so I look after people in intensive care. I look after people who have just had cardiac surgery. And the compromises that I’m seeing now are putting patients potentially at risk of catastrophic, injury or death. And it breaks my heart to say that in the sixth richest country on the planet, in the 21st century the care in our health service has been so compromised by cuts and the Tory administration that we have to go on strike to try and get pay restoration.
Protester: “Power, power, power!”
Will Malcher (Senior Nurse In The NHS): Care? Well, care is very broad, but it’s looking after your patients, being there after their surgeries, before their surgeries. Supporting them through an emergency department. supporting them through end of life pathways and letting them die in a compassionate way. We have differences in that. You know, we’re seeing it often that we’re not giving that care anymore and that’s what’s really hurtful as a nurse. I didn’t go through three years of education and register as a registered nurse to give that care.
St Mary’s Hospital – Picket Line
Protester: “We are the nurses!” “The mighty mighty nurses!” “1, 2, 3 , 4, 5!” “Keep our NHS alive”
Katie Woodason (Senior Staff Nurse In Pediatric A&E): Absolutely. I’ve been on the [tannoy] Not the tannoy that’s in A&E. The megaphone today.
Protester: “What do we want?” “Fair pay!” “When do we want it?” “Now!”
Katie Woodason (Senior Staff Nurse In Pediatric A&E): It feels like the NHS is being pushed into privatization. But I don’t want that to happen. There are so many patients that wouldn’t be able to afford the basics of care.
Protester: “No nurses!” “No NHS”
Katie Woodason (Senior Staff Nurse In Pediatric A&E): My great grandma was poorly over Christmas. Just before Christmas. And she was in A&E in a Kent Hospital. She was in an A&E and she was there for two and a half days on a ventilator, before getting to a ward. That is how bad…Like no one of any age, should have to stay in A&E for 48 hours plus before they can get a bed on the wards and the beds…the whole A&E was piled up. It’s not it’s not safe for the patients. There’s no way…If there was an emergency, they couldn’t get an emergency trolley and a defib to the patients in the second row.
Protester: “Safe staffing!” “Saves lives!”
Ellen Grogan (Retired Staff Nurse And RCN Member): I’m an RCN member and I work bank. I retired early at 65, actually because I was no longer prepared to carry the can for unsafe conditions.
Protester: “Safe staffing!” “Saves lives!” “Safe staffing!” “Saves lives!”
Ellen Grogan (Retired Staff Nurse And RCN Member): The shortages are so severe that I’m continuously asked to come and help out on wards. Morale is at rock bottom. The only thing that’s sustaining us at the moment is the unity among people who are campaigning to improve conditions. But other than that, it’s appalling. But other than that, it’s appalling.
Protester: “No nurses!” “No NHS!” “No nurses!” “No NHS!”
Ellen Grogan (Retired Staff Nurse And RCN Member) : Previously, years ago we didn’t strike because we felt we had a duty to our patients to not strike. Now it’s the converse. We have a duty to our patients and to our public to strike in order to highlight unsafe conditions.
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